• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"A shockingly cynical picture". In the light of this comment, discuss the Wife of Bath's account of her marriages to her first three husbands. In your response, you should consider:

Extracts from this document...


"A shockingly cynical picture". In the light of this comment, discuss the Wife of Bath's account of her marriages to her first three husbands. In your response, you should consider: * what the account reveals about the Wife of Bath's character and personality * the account's significance in the poem's treatment of the theme of marriage * tone and style Within the Prologue the Wife of Bath leaps into account of her marriages to her first three husbands. We are treated to a vivid depiction of her distinct character and personality and gain profound insight into Chaucer's treatment of the theme of marriage. I will now discuss in detail how the wife paints a picture that is "shockingly cynical". To begin, the wife's merciless and uncaring nature should be considered. She takes delight in recounting the s****l demands she made of her husbands and the misery that she thus caused them. It is almost as if she gains a s******c pleasure from doing this: "I laughe whan I thinke/How pitously a-night I made hem swinke". ...read more.


The wife was not concerned about whether or not her husbands were fulfilled in their marriages but was purely interested in herself. This is especially apparent when she tells us that she would not "plese" them unless it were for her own "profit" or "ese". In fact, we go on to learn that in order to obtain money from her husbands she would demand payment for her s****l favours: "I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde....til he had maad his rauson unto me". The parallel with prostitution is evident and reinforces the link which the wife makes between love and commerce. The sanctity of marriage is therefore being undermined. However, this does not matter to the wife. She simply cares about her own personal gain. In addition to her materialistic nature, it is clear that the wife is a cunning and deceitful woman. She falsely accuses the husbands of various misdemeanours such as lechery with the neighbour's wife and maid, suspecting her relations with the apprentince Jankin and uttering all sorts of curses and complaints against wives. ...read more.


This can be seen in the animal imagery prevalent in the poem. The wife likens herself to a male horse that could "bite and whine" in order to reinforce her masculine, aggressive qualities. She is by no means the typical subdued and obedient wife one would expect to find in fourteenth century England. On the other hand, the wife told her husband that he should be like their sheep Wilkin, "pacient and meek". Thus, the wife reverses the traditional viewpoint of man and wife. She wanted to possess "sovereinetee" in her relationships and to make her husbands subdued and placid. All of this shows that marriage did not thwart her independence in the past and that she is determined to keep it that way. On the whole, we can see that the account offered by the Wife of Bath illustrates a shockingly cynical view of her marriages. She is a bold and independent character, atypical of a medieval housewife, who displays a cold and totally self-interested attitude towards her husbands. In essence, she shocks but at the same intrigues us. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Geoffrey Chaucer section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

The strengths of this essay lie in its clarity of structure and expression, its effective use of relevant, brief and well-integrated quotation and its persuasive tone.
The essay could be improved by recognising that the concept of marriage has changed, and by questioning the premise that Chaucer offers us a 'shockingly cynical picture', rather than just accepting that this is the case. In addition, the writer mainly tackles only the first bullet point of the question.

Marked by teacher Val Shore 23/02/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. A sinister exploration of the nature of evil Discuss Chaucers poetic methods in ...

    The pardoner admits to using pieces of Latin to saffron my predicacioun. This cooking imagery may suggest that he only uses Latin to reinforce his false position, and therefore highlighting his evil nature, and may relate to the sin of gluttony as he is referencing food, again reinforcing the evilness of his character.

  2. Chaucer creates humour by satirising values in religious and courtly love. To what extent ...

    "On women, thereas was his apetite." This portrayal of him shows the audience that he is in fact obsessed with women and s*x. In the tale he attempts to gain himself a young wife, despite the warnings of his advisors. Chaucer uses the dialogue of the characters to explain to Januarie that a young wife will be difficult to keep happy at his age.

  1. Discuss how the concept of courtly love is represented in the Franklin's tale.

    The very concept of him lying on a bed weeping for two years is a clear exaggeration; this raises the idea that Chaucer meant this as a parody of courtly love, a way of mocking the overreactions and melodrama associated with it.

  2. The pardoners prologue and Tale show human nature to lack any redeeming virtues ...

    cannot die, and ultimately leads the 3 rioters to their own deaths through the temptation (weakness) of greed. * Therefore, it is sufficient to say that the pardoner's prologue and Tale does indeed show human nature to lack any redeeming virtues, and that greed, weakness and hypocrisy are clearly illustrated through the construction of the character.

  1. 'Merchant's Tale - Marriage'

    marriage in general: 'Thogh the feend to hire ycoupled were, She would him overmacche'5 Here, he specifically links his wife with the devil, that she would defeat him if they were they coupled. He goes as far as demonising his wife and presenting her in an evil, even heretic manner.

  2. Chaucer is successful in creating humour in the Wife of Baths prologue and tale.

    particularly hilarious because his p***s is being referred to as an ?old shoe? with the connotations of his manhood being ?worn out? and old- fashioned, as well as subtly implying the wife of Bath needed a new p***s belonging to a fresh, new husband.

  1. The Triangulation of Love in The Knights Tale

    her as a ?human being.? This distinction seems to be a commentary by Chaucer about the difference between romanticized ?courtly love,? versus the honesty of ?true love.? The two men now have increasingly divergent understandings of love and a growing resentment for one another.

  2. Considering in detail one or two passages, explore the significance of magic in The ...

    The description of the magician's house and of his hospitality, definitely does remind us of the description of the Franklin who is a 'St Julian' in his district. It says that it 'snewd of mete and drink' in the Franklin's house and this indication of wealth is a link which forms part of the secondary ironic purpose of Chaucer.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work